Written by Parker Casey, 8th Grade –
School counselor, author, and journalist Phyllis L. Fagell visited Lake Tahoe School last week to talk about youth mental health and wellness, as outlined in her new book called Middle School Superpowers: Raising Resilient Teens in Turbulent Times. She spoke to 4th through 8th grades and to the parents at night, and I had the opportunity to speak with her one-on-one about some of the topics she discussed.
In her sessions with students, she started by sharing advice written by middle school students from previous schools she visited. As she read the advice from previous schools, students began to realize that everyone in their age group is wrestling with a lot of the same challenges. She hears so many of the same stories from the same schools, state to state and even from different countries. She then asked students to anonymously write down something that they wished their parents knew about being a middle school student, which she would later share with parents at a community presentation that evening.
After a brief presentation on the 12 middle school superpowers, Ms. Fagell had kids do value exercises where she asked students to fill out a worksheet with different traits in decision-making. When kids know how to make decisions using a more stable framework rather than relying solely on their instincts, they tend to make decisions that lead to fewer regrets and bring out the best in them. Ms. Fagell then encouraged students to write advice to share with rising middle schoolers. She does this at every school she visits because she believes that middle schoolers are incredibly wise, and we don’t tap into their ability to help other students as much as we should.
When I spoke with her, she shared how middle schoolers can often have a reputation for being mean, reckless, and even lazy, and if the students hear and absorb those negative messages, it can negatively impact them. Ms. Fagell argues that the negative stereotypes are not true, and that these are kids who want to be good people who do the right thing and treat their friends well. They do not have a lot of life experience and they are still acquiring social skills, so things like jealousy or trying to impress someone get in the way and that can lead to some social clumsiness.
In her evening presentation, Ms. Fagell shared the notes about things they wished their parents knew about middle school, which was eye-opening for many of the parents, and helped them learn how to help their kids activate their “superpowers.” Ms. Fagell loves middle schoolers because she believes that they are incredibly funny and interesting and the perfect mix of sophisticated and child-like. She showed how adults can support them and help them develop a positive self-image, compassion, and a willingness to take healthy risks. We are thankful for her visit and look forward to more from Lake Tahoe School’s Speaker Series on Youth Mental Wellness!
Parker Casey is a Lake Tahoe School student and Public Relations Officer of the LTS Student Council.